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By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.

These days are the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Nakbah (catastrophe) of Palestine, and the establishment of Israel on Palestinian land. On this anniversary, we will discuss three facts and illusions about the Nakbah, which are still unclear or confused by many in the Arab world and internationally:

UN Partition Plan for Palestine:

After World War II, Britain had retracted from its 1939 White Paper, which committed to the establishment of an independent Palestine state within ten years, declared that Palestine should not become a Jewish State and adhered to the Balfour Declaration. The question of the future of Palestine was referred to the UN General Assembly (UNGA), which formed a special committee that recommended partitioning it into two states, a Jewish and an Arab. At the end, a draft resolution was submitted to give 54.7% of the land of Palestine to the Jewish state (14,400 km2), 44.8% to the Arab state (11,780 km2), and about 0.5% to the Jerusalem area, as an international zone.

What many do not know is that when the UNGA decided to partition Palestine on 29/11/1947, its people still had about 94% of the land, which means that all the 30-year Zionist attempts, British occupation measures, repression and force majeure to grab their land have failed. Also, they still constituted the population majority by about 68.5%, although the Jews multiplied their numbers 13 folds through immigration and settlement (from 50 thousand in 1918 to 650 thousand in 1948), where the immigration took place under the auspices and protection of the British occupation. Consequently, the partition decision could not have been implemented except through massacres, military aggression and ethnic cleansing, supported by international cover, especially by the major powers, led by the US, the Soviet Union, Britain and others.

The decision of partition required a two-thirds majority vote. The major powers did not have this majority, and a vote almost took place on November 26, which would have thwarted the partitioning project, but the UNGA president (the Brazilian delegate) postponed the session. The Jewish Zionist lobbies and the Americans launched a strong campaign that succeeded by using all means at their disposal to gain more votes. Indeed, the wives of the Latin American delegates received precious gifts of diamonds and expensive fur coats.

The Haiti government, which had voted against the partitioning, ordered its delegate to vote in support of the resolution, after the US promised to offer economic aid. American businessman Robert Nathan used his financial influence to buy the vote of Guatemala, the Firestone company made economic threats to Liberia if it did not change its abstention to support, and the Philippines was strongly pressured, leading to the interference of its president, who ordered his delegate to vote in support of the resolution. It is thus through these dirty tricks that the fate of one of the holiest places on earth was sealed.

On 29/11/1947, the resolution in question obtained a majority of 33 votes against 13, with 10 abstentions. It is one of the strangest international resolutions, because:

1. It violates one of the main goals of the international organization: namely, to give people the right to their self-determination. As a result, the Palestinian people and their inalienable right to decide their future were ignored.

2. It lacks any legal basis, as the UN General Assembly did not have the authority to handle the affairs of regions under mandate, including Palestine. The UN had created the “trusteeship” system, thus it had to enter into negotiations to place Palestine under this system and decide to terminate the mandate over Palestine, if the mandate had achieved its goals of paving the way for independence.

3. Neither the UN charter, nor any of its institutions had the authority to divide a region with defined boundaries against the wishes of its inhabitants.

4. According to international law—prevalent at the time—this resolution was a non-binding recommendation drafted according to Article 10 of the UN Charter and thus does not affect the inalienable rights of the Palestinians.

5. The partition resolution was clearly contrary to the idea of international justice, as its distribution did not take into consideration the ratio of land ownership (Jews did not own more than 6% of the land) or the ratio of the population (the Jews made up 31.5% of it).

6. When the partition resolution gave 54.7% of the land of Palestine to the Jewish state, half of its population were still Palestinian. According to the natural population increase, the Palestinians would have obtained the majority in a few years. Therefore, it was implicitly understood that the Zionists would (with international cover or silence) displace the Palestinian people to ensure a Jewish majority.

7. Although the Zionists made desperate efforts for the passage of this resolution and received it with great joy, Israel never “officially” recognized this decision, and dealt with it as a fait accompli and a procedural issue. After that, it sought to bypass it by launching war campaigns that expanded its area by about 77% of the land, due to the 1948 war. More than 800 thousand Palestinians were displaced, out of a total of about 925 thousand, who used to live in the land on which the Zionist state was established. After the end of the 1948 war, neither the UN nor the major powers compelled Israel to return to the borders set by the partition resolution, but rather sought to establish the armistice lines as new borders.

In general, the partition resolution has legalized injustice and provided cover for the usurpation of land and holy site, contradicting the foundations of the international system and human rights.

Facts About the Seven Arab Armies:

Many wonder how the “Zionist gangs” managed to defeat the armies of seven Arab countries in the 1948 war?! and the Israelis also talk about how their entity was under overwhelming danger from these armies in an attempt to elicit sympathy, on one hand, and arouse admiration for what they call their “victories” over these armies, and highlight the fake “heroism” in the establishment of the entity, on the other hand.

However, actually, at the end of the British occupation in mid-May 1948 and in that war, the Arab armies (which entered Palestine) did not have more than 21 thousand soldiers, while the Zionist forces had 67 thousand, more than three times the Arabs’. Even as the fighting continued and until the war’s end, the Arab armies reached about 40 thousand soldiers, while the Zionists were more than 106 thousand. Thus, in the first step of the comparison, the illusion of the “seven armies” fades.

On the other hand, most of the participating Arab armies were still under colonial influence or newly established and independent. The Jordanian army, for example, was still under the command of the British Chief of Staff, John Bagot Glubb, and in its upper ranks there were about 45 British officers out of 50. Glubb Pasha issued strict orders not to cross the lines of the Partition Plan, i.e., he was concerned with confirming the partition decision, not with the liberation of Palestine. As for the Iraqi army, it came to war without maps, and most of the armies had weak or no information about the Zionist side. Moreover, the Arab regimes did not mobilize their full potential for the battle, and their armies went there as if they were on a military outing, completely underestimating the Zionist forces. Furthermore, instead of mobilizing the Palestinians and arming them, some of these armies disarmed them. The Arab armies fought with poor armaments and damaged weapons, and the great powers prohibited the export of weapons to them during the war.

While emphasizing that the Arab soldiers were courageous in fighting and had proved their heroism (e.g.: The Jordanian army in Jerusalem, the Iraqi army in Jenin, and the Egyptian army in the south …), however, they were poorly led by incompetent military and political commanders, or had faced harsh conditions that made the two sides not evenly matched, whether in terms of military capabilities or logistical equipment.

Whereas the Zionist project had built political, military, economic, educational and social structures under the auspices of the British occupation, and had effective political and military field leadership, while the Palestinian leadership was absent outside Palestine. The Zionists were able to obtain high-quality arms deals that allowed them to achieve superiority in combat, such as having 24 British aircraft, and a huge number of Czech weapons (with the permission and direction of the Soviet Union), including 40 combat aircraft, and they got also three fighter-bombers from the US.

After the Entrance of Arab Armies Most of Palestine Was Lost:

Many think that the 1948 Palestine war began at the end of the British occupation and with the entry of Arab armies into Palestine, and some may believe that these armies, upon their entrance, preserved what was left of Palestine. In fact, the Palestine war began immediately after the passage of the United Nations (UN) Partition Plan for Palestine, on 29/11/1947, i.e., about five and a half months before the entry of the Arab armies; and the people of Palestine (Whom the British suppressed throughout the occupation, crushing their revolutions, killing and displacing their leaders) had actually fought extensive battles with poor armaments throughout that period. Moreover, al-Jihad al-Muqaddas organization, the Arab Liberation Army (ALA), the volunteers of the Muslim Brothers (MB) movement and others had lacked logistical support and were poorly armed. Military mobilization was weak, and the Arab regimes had negative attitudes, and even prevented or severely restricted the entry of volunteers (especially through Egypt).

Nevertheless, throughout those months, the people of Palestine preserved more than 80% of the land of Palestine. Most of the Zionist expansion occurred after 15 May when the Arab armies were there; Acre fell on 17/5/1948; Lod, Ramleh, Nazareth and Shefa Amr fell on 9–17/7/1948; the regions of al-Majdal, Ashdod and Iraq al-Suwaidan and what remained of northern Palestine fell in the second half of October 1948; while the Negev region (which makes about half of the area of Palestine) fell in March 1949.

Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 13/5/2023

The opinions expressed in all the publications and studies are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of al-Zaytouna Centre.

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